Mike Richman is gunning for another knockout at Bellator 137. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
For a little while, it looked as though Mike Richman’s decision to stay active -- rather than wait for a title shot -- was going to come back to haunt him.
Richman’s 46-second technical knockout of Nam Phan last November impressed Bellator MMA brass enough to offer the 29-year-old Minnesota native the next bantamweight championship bout. All he had to do was wait. But, after a glance at the promotion’s calendar, “The Marine” realized he could not afford to take that route.
“To be honest, they told me after the Nam Phan fight if I wanted to fight for the title, I could have the title match,” Richman told Sherdog.com. “But I’m like, well, Marcos Galvao has to fight [Joe] Warren at the end of March. If they’re fighting in March, whoever wins isn’t going to want to defend it until late summer, maybe early fall. I’d be sitting on the shelf forever. I can’t afford that. I don’t make that much money. I’ve got to fight three or four times a year. I need a fight. I guess I’ll have to fight before that.”
Richman was initially booked against former 135-pound titlist Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 135 on March 27, the same card where Warren would defend the belt against Galvao. That seemed to align perfectly for the Richman-Dantas winner to emerge as the next No. 1 contender.
Unfortunately for Richman, things didn’t work out that way. His bout against Dantas was postponed after the knockout artist suffered a left hand injury in training in the weeks leading up to the fight. When it first happened, Richman feared the worst.
“I was sparring, and it was just one of those freak shots where I threw a heavy cross and one of my partners turned at a weird angle and I caught him right on the side of the head,” Richman said. “The right angle, a heavy punch and I punched right through my glove, right through my wrap. I took off my gloves and my hand was all swelled up. It looked like a break, not just a sprain or whatever.
“Luckily there was no break or fracture but the doctor told me, ‘You must have jacked up your ligaments and tendons pretty good for it to be swelling.’ You can see the swelling and inflammation in the x-ray. The recovery from that where the pain will be gone will be anywhere from four to six weeks no contact. For about two weeks I couldn’t fully open and close my hand.”
The good news for Richman was that Bellator really wanted to keep his matchup with Dantas intact. They will square off in the Bellator 137 co-headliner at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Friday night. The evening’s four-bout main card airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
If all goes as planned, Richman will get his crack at Galvao, who submitted Warren at Bellator 135, at a later date. He is grateful that his proposed bout against Dantas did not fall by the wayside.
“I’m still very excited that they kept it,” said Richman, who is now able to throw at 100-percent power with his left hand. “I think it showed that, ‘Hey, this is our No. 1 contender fight if Mike is able to fight soon within the next couple months.’ For a second I was like, ‘This sucks. I’m gonna be put on the backburner. There goes my chance at a title shot.’ …They’re committed to what an excellent fight this is gonna be, and they’re committed to having one of us fight for the title after.”
Dantas hasn’t competed since last October, when he dropped the bantamweight strap to Warren in a hard-fought five-round duel at Bellator 128. It was the first defeat in seven Bellator appearances for the 26-year-old Rio de Janeiro native.
Of course, Richman is a completely different fighter than the grappling-oriented Warren, a decorated Greco-Roman wrestler on the national level. Richman, as evidenced by the six first-round knockout victories accumulated during his promotional tenure, would prefer a slugfest.
“He’s hungry as s--t. He’s angry; he’s mad he lost the title, and I’m the first guy who has to face him,” Richman said. “He’s looking at me as a guy that just knocks people unconscious, and I know that’s gotta worry him because I’m pretty accurate, and I hit very hard.”
Richman is aware of Dantas’ past concussion issues, which delayed his return to action following a knockout loss to Tyson Nam in August 2012. “The Marine” definitely plans on testing his opponent’s chin come fight night.
“I don’t think he’s been hit clean in the chin, in the face, in a good while -- since probably the [Nam] fight. I can’t remember a fight where he’s been hit clean since then,” Richman said. “If I hit you clean, you’re gonna be in trouble -- especially with a guy who cuts a lot of weight. I know I cut a lot of weight too, so we’re both in that category. I think he’s had concussion issues in the past, from what I’m told, and those aren’t good scenarios.”